Wall Street Journal's Harwood: Rove's alleged "backhanded confirmations" in Plame case were not leaks

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

On MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood claimed that White House senior adviser Karl Rove was at most guilty of "backhanded confirmations" of classified information and therefore cannot reasonably be accused of leaking. Harwood's assertion amounts to the claim that mere confirmation -- as opposed to actual disclosure -- of classified information does not constitute an unauthorized leak. Harwood's assertion is not supported by the law or the facts.

On the April 27 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood claimed that White House senior adviser Karl Rove was at most guilty of "backhanded confirmations" of classified information and therefore cannot reasonably be accused of leaking. Harwood's assertion amounts to the claim that mere confirmation -- as opposed to actual disclosure -- of classified information does not constitute an unauthorized leak. Harwood's assertion is not supported by the law, or by the nondisclosure agreement that Rove presumably signed as a senior White House official with access to classified information. The assertion also ignores the facts: Time.com political editor Matthew Cooper, who at the time was Time magazine's White House correspondent, reportedly testified that Rove told him of Plame's identity in a phone conversation before her identity was made public, and Cooper reportedly testified that he heard of Plame for the first time during his conversation with Rove.

Neither the Intelligence Identities Protection Act nor the Espionage Act distinguishes between the act of actively disclosing classified information and confirming its accuracy with someone not authorized to have it. Moreover, the Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (SF 312), which is signed by administration officials with access to classified information, explicitly prohibits the confirmation of classified information in addition to its active disclosure.

Rove reportedly told the grand jury during testimony that he first learned of Plame's identity from syndicated columnist Robert Novak during a telephone call on July 8, 2003. However, in a column published on October 1, 2003, Novak indicated that he spoke with two officials about Plame, with the first divulging information about Plame's identity and the second -- reportedly Rove -- indicating that he had also learned of Plame's identity, telling Novak, "I heard that, too." If Novak's version is accurate, Rove confirmed Plame's identity. Moreover -- in direct refutation of Harwood's claim that Rove merely provided "backhanded confirmations" -- Cooper testified that the "first time [he] had ever heard anything about" Plame was in a phone conversation with Rove on July 11, 2003. Cooper testified that he was told by Rove that Plame worked at the CIA and was purportedly responsible for a trip made by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, to Niger in 2002 to investigate reports that an Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999 to seek yellowcake uranium.

From the April 27 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which also featured Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman and guest host Norah O'Donnell:

FINEMAN: Well from the legal experts I've talked to who aren't on Patrick Fitzgerald's staff, but who know how this works, it is clearly the perjury that they're looking at, just as in the Libby case. And if, if, if Rove is indicted, you're going to have a whole other drama between the press and the prosecutors and the defense attorneys over subpoenaing information, records, files from news organizations all over again. Because if Rove is indicted, his defense is going to be, "Wait a minute, let's see what else the people in the press community knew about what I was saying. You can't prove that it came this way, it might have come other ways." And we're going to have a whole other press confrontation once again.

HARWOOD: And Norah, it's got to be perjury because by no reasonable interpretation of leaking could the known facts suggest that Karl Rove was actually putting her name out there. These were backhanded confirmations. It is obvious the White House was pushing back against Joe Wilson and that Valerie Plame ended up being part of that. The question is, was there a cover-up that Fitzgerald can make a charge out of?

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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